by Brian Ansley
The Spartan Death Race is comprised of many unique athletes, having the guts to sign up alone is a testament to the participants’ character. It’s becoming more and more known that this race is one of the most challenging on the planet. In order to make it through this excruciating race, these competitors need to show up in their finest physical and mental condition. I recently spoke with a 2011 Death Racer, Mr. Peter St. John. Peter who is an outstanding athlete, and who showed up to the 2011 event ready to take on any of the challenges that were going to be thrown his way. The only difference is that Peter is deaf.
Peter is 32 years old, and was born with his disability. “It has given me a drive”, he said. “Most people don’t know sign language, so it makes it hard to communicate with me.” He is originally from North Hampton, and now resides in Boston, Massachusetts where he is currently employed at Ratheon. Peter grew up with an athletic background. He played ice hockey, rugby, and was on the Lacrosse Team for Rochester Institute School of the Deaf.
He said that being deaf was, “A big role in his life, but never stopped me from doing what I wanted to do.” Peter also has a dynamic racing background outside of the 2011 Death Race. He participated in the Tough Guy Race twice, which he pointed out to me is different than Tough Mudder. “The first time I did the race I got hypothermia near the finish line.” Peter also did an Adventure Race in Vermont. “I heard about the Death Race through a friend. It was on the website, www.youmaydie.com. I saw the challenge, and thought wow!”
Peter shared with me some of the mental and physical tests that he endured while taking on the Death Race. He told me that he had to have shoulder surgery before going into the race, which was a little bit of a concern. However, he was quick to point out, “Everybody at the race was really cool, and each person had their own pressures. The challenges were really tough, but fun!”
He continued to tell me about sharing his experiences with fellow Death Racer’s at the bonfire that first night after being waist deep in the frigid river for the infamous pond crossing. He also spoke of the weather and how the menacing rain wouldn’t let up noting that at one point, “Andy threw our shoes in the woods so we had to go look for them.” During the log chopping event, Peter’s log was twice the size than it should have been. In order to save time, he did not saw the ends off. Ultimately, this is what hurt Peter physically for the remainder of the race. At approximately hour 24, Peter decided to withdraw from the Death Race. “I didn’t take Andy’s advice, and take the time to saw the ends off the log”, he said. “All my life being challenged and being deaf, I wanted to show people I could do it.”
I asked Peter what his race future looked like in 2012, and how he was preparing for it. The first thing he said was, “Winter Death Race in March.” Peter is preparing day and night by doing CrossFit, and various strength training. “I’ve got rashes all over my body.” He also said that he will remember to, “Take other’s advice next time.” Also, “To not think ahead so much in next year’s race. I will try not to be so mentally consumed.”
Peter noted, “My mom has been great training crew.” I asked if he had anything else in mind besides the Death Race for 2012. He replied, “I’m not sure yet. There’s nothing out there testing me like the Death Race.” I went on to ask how the Death Race has effected his lifelong “drive” that he has had his whole life. “My drive now is specifically something I have for the Death Race. The Death Race is the toughest race of all. It has the mental component that all of the other races are lacking. All of the other races are a cake walk.”